“But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. The Jews therefore were marveling, saying, ‘How has this man become learned, having never been educated?’ Jesus therefore answered them, and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. ‘If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.‘”
What is Jesus doing? We have read that he intended to keep a low profile during the Feast of Booths, even delaying his departure from Galilee to Jerusalem after his antagonistic brothers sarcastically tried to sway him to go up and show himself. In the context, one of John’s aspirations to his audience is to see that not only did his little brothers not believe that he was from God but that they also mocked him. Nevertheless Jesus went up, secretly, yet couldn’t resist teaching at the temple after his arrival. We wonder why? If they were seeking his life, and if his time had not yet come, why go up, even in secret? Let’s come back to this.
Jesus was teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles: to this point, we don’t know what he was teaching only that he was teaching in the middle of the celebration. The Feast of Booths, or; Sukkot, was an afterthought, in a manner of speaking. It was a week long memorial to remember that the son’s of Israel dwelt in temporary tents during the 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus was teaching at the temple in the middle of these seven days. It’s more than a little ironic. Let’s consider the greater context and look back at the history.
In Exodus 23 we read; “Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field. Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD.”
Where do we see booths or temporary tents in these three pilgramage festivals? We don’t, because they had not yet sinned against the Lord to be banished back to the wilderness for forty years.
Excerpts from Numbers: “When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus they told him, and said, ‘We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there…We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us’…Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! And why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt‘…And the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.’ But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Thy strength Thou didst bring up this people from their midst, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land…So the LORD said, ‘I have pardoned them according to your word; but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it…According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you shall know My opposition.'”
In Leviticus 23: “On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
A quick conclusion and a brief application: Israel was never intended to live in booths. Neither are we. Israel was never intended to wander the wilderness. Neither are we. Yet, they were and we are. To us it is a paradox of ivory tower discourses and round table debates, though it is far from a contradiction. Was everything fatalistically determined or do we have free will? The answer is yes; God is that big.
God knew; it’s that simple. God manipulates all of history to accomplish his will. No matter if or how free our wills are, even combined together, they can’t out will the ultimate will of God. The Lord progressively adjusted and increased his revelations and intentions to the world based upon the world’s response to him; even more to Israel. Yet the law of first mention, within certain parameters, is usually quite clear. For instance, we know from the fall of man that the Lord would defeat the serpent with an offspring of a woman. Therefore we look for this fulfillment in the Bible, while also looking for shadows and types. In the same way we look at the harvest festival and its first mention but notice how it progresses and why. Jesus was promised immediately after the fall of man but was progressively pointed to and prophecy increased up until his day. Believe it or not, the Feast of Booths has a much smaller but similar progression. We have already seen this in part; originally the Feast of Booths was not the Feast of Booths but the harvest festival and not the festival of first fruits. It was to celebrate and rejoice over reaping what Israel sowed and not others, as the feast of first fruits. The Feast Booths was and is, a harvest festival, based upon the principle of first mention.
But we know what happened– Israel ignored Joshua and Caleb and chickened out from entering into the promised land. Because of this, God made them wander the wilderness for forty years, living in temporary tents, or booths, or tabernacles.
We have read what John wrote, “and the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” The meaning of the shadows and types of the Feast of Booths was twofold at least– temporarily dwelling and the harvest.Therefore we can reasonably assume that Jesus was teaching within this context. His teachings confounded the people present. “The Jews therefore were marveling, saying, ‘How has this man become learned, having never been educated?'”
Unless you are learning for yourself you only know what you have been taught. I know this sounds simple and even stupid but it is the truth. Jesus didn’t need instructions and education from the Pharisees and certainly not the Sadducees or scribes. Despite what we may think though, Jesus did have to learn because he did come in the flesh as a baby boy. Nevertheless he was still one with the father and the Spirit was with him. Jesus learned from God (himself) but it is also apparent that he studied the Scripture. Jesus had the divine sense of Scripture written on himself and in his heart and in his mind. Jesus was at the feast because he was under the Law and obeyed but more importantly he had a message from the father.
“Jesus therefore answered them, and said, ‘My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. ‘If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.'”
Jesus did not have to broaden his phylacteries or lengthen his tassels. The Law and prophets were written on his heart because he wrote them. This is one aspect of the Feast of Booths, though dwelling on earth, Jesus is from heaven and sowing seeds for the harvest.
Jesus didn’t come for his own glory but the glory of the one who sent him. Again we see a paradox but not a contradiction. Jesus is one with the father and the Spirit and he is also the son. This is one of the aspirations of John’s gospel account. More than any other gospel writer, John goes to great lengths to show the reader the divinity of Jesus and his humanity. John also reiterates these things in his epistles. John’s description of the Antichrist, the true antichrist not the beast from the land or the sea, accurately portrayed Jesus as God and man.
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”
John also wrote: “And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
Question: what does this have to do with the context? We want to understand the big picture, as much as our earthly thinking will allow. We have the ability to zoom out and in, seeing the sacred Scripture with both a wide angle and a telescopic lens. We want to understand who Jesus was and from whence his authority was given to him. We want to see his purpose in his preaching, teaching and in all aspects of his earthly dwelling, let alone his eternal being.
Question: why? Because they missed it and we don’t want to be like them. Unfortunately for us, we are quite like them.
We want to read the Bible to turn the page.